CEO | Grön
What started out as a side hustle for Christine Smith has turned into one of the fastest growing companies in the United States and one of the leading edibles brands in North America.
Smith launched Grön in her home kitchen in Portland, Oregon, about a decade ago, when Oregon was still a medical-only state. In 2015, as Oregon was beginning the switch to an adult-use market, she cashed in her stock options and walked away from her career in architecture — a career choice that has proven not just to be lucrative, but liberating as well.
“I don’t know how anybody comes into this career choice in cannabis and can ever do anything that’s more fulfilling,” she says. “I loved my job, and I loved what I did. But nothing compares to building a team in a new industry, where you get to not just make your dreams come true, but create a team and build a collective dream.”
Smith started out focusing on producing consistent, high-quality chocolates, growing the company without any outside investment. In 2019, the company expanded its product line to include gummies, then moved beyond Oregon’s borders, starting with Nevada in 2021, followed by Arizona and Oklahoma in 2022. In the past year, the company has expanded into Missouri — which has supplanted Oregon as the company’s top-selling market — and Canada. The company has its sights set on continuing to launch in new markets, including Maryland, New Jersey and New York.
Grön (green in Swedish — a nod both to Sweden’s candy-making tradition, as well as Smith’s architecture education in Scandinavia) operates what Smith calls a reverse licensing model. She says she only knows of one other company in cannabis that operates under the same model.
Grön leases space from a licensee and pays a royalty on sales, but Grön brings its own equipment, its own people, its own processes.
“We’re going to control it nuts to bolts, all the way to the finished product,” she says. “We will do everything.”
Smith says that model is a lot more work, but the payoff is in the consistency and quality of the product, and ultimately, in building a loyal customer base.
“It’s a tortoise and hare mentality,” she says, “and we’re definitely the tortoise in that aspect, because it takes so much time and development and capital to set up these individual markets.”
But the model is clearly working. Grön has seen its market share grow in every state in which it operates, and the company landed on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing privately owned companies this year, with 263% growth over the past three years. Even in Oregon, one of the most competitive markets in the country, and a state where many operators are struggling to survive, Grön grew sales by 50% over the past year, increasing its market share from 9% to 15%.
“That’s tremendous growth in a mature market that we’re really proud of,” Smith says.